Nothing quite says vacation like sipping a mai tai under a palm tree by a pool. But having that drink at an all-inclusive resort can end up costing more than you expected — which is tough when you’re trying to cut vacation costs.
All-inclusive vacations — be they resorts or cruises — offer a model in which the guest pays once. After that, everything is supposed to be taken care of — meals, drinks and entertainment. In many cases, however, the resort’s definition of “all-inclusive” might not match your expectations.
To avoid an unpleasant surprise when you settle the bill, here are eight things to consider before you book an all-inclusive deal:
1. The cost of getting there
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The resort may be wonderful, but unless it’s walking distance from home, there will be travel expenses. Airfare to and from your destination will be an added cost. Resorts might cover the cost of getting you from the airport to their facility — or they might not.
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2. Food and drink
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Many resorts offer multiple restaurants, but the top-of-the-line choices with the best food might cost extra. Or, in some cases, a buffet might be included in the fee, but going to a table-service restaurant will come with an added cost.
Drinks can work on the same model: Cocktails might be free if you’re OK with house liquor, but the top-shelf stuff — or the mid-shelf stuff, for that matter — can cost extra. In some cases, only nonalcoholic drinks are free. So, if you want a beer or glass of wine with dinner, it will cost you.
One way around this fee can be to upgrade to a premium package, in which you pay for the more expensive stuff in advance. If you have expensive tastes, it might end up being a better choice.
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A common practice is to include nonmotorized activities like snorkeling or volleyball in the price, but to charge extra if you hop on a jet ski or go parasailing. Other activities might be partially included in the base cost. If they say “golf all you want,” for example, it’s worth checking into that — it might mean the greens fees are included, but you’ll still need to pay to rent clubs. It’s best to ask so you’re not surprised.
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Even if everything in the resort or on the ship is included, the meter will begin running once you leave your “base camp.” If you want a look at the local culture, everything in town is going to be at an extra cost.
5. The view
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The room shown in the brochure is likely to be one of the best at the resort — and it’s probably going to cost extra. If you want a view of the ocean, it’s going to be pricier than a view of the parking lot.
Also, be careful of the language the resort uses. The term “beachfront” might not mean you can see any of the actual ocean. Instead, you might just get a view of the sand. And keep in mind, a term like “ocean view” may be loosely defined. It could mean a sweeping, unobstructed vista, or it could mean you can see a sliver of blue. Consider checking travel review sites, or simply calling the resort to clarify what sort of room you’re getting.
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Some places fold tips into the base price, other places don’t. Find out ahead of time, so you can budget accordingly.
7. Resort fees
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Nonoptional fees can sometimes run as high as $75 per day. It’s little more than a way of making the advertised room rate seem lower than it actually is. Again, checking travel review sites, calling ahead and reading the fine print when booking can help you avoid surprises.
Also, check out “12 Tips for Avoiding Ridiculous Hotel Fees.”
Do you have any experience with all-inclusive vacations? Offer your tips in the comments below or on our .